Like so many other organizations comprising the so-called “international community,” the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) has historically had a bit of an anti-Semitism problem. The IOC utterly beclowned itself in London in 2012 by failing to honor the Israeli athletes slain by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich games forty years prior. In 2016, the Rio games had barely begun before the Lebanese delegation disgracefully rejected the Israeli delegation from sharing its bus—thus engaging in nothing short of “petty apartheid.”
And yet as shameful as the Lebanese delegation’s antics were, the low point of the 2016 games came from Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby, who lost to his Israeli rival Or Sasson in an early round of the 100 kilogram competition and then refused to either properly bow—an ingrained element of international judo culture—or even shake Sasson’s hand. (Sasson went on to win the bronze medal in the event.)
The photo of the handshake snub, which I have reproduced above with an accompanying caption from the Washington, D.C.-based group The Israel Project, has subsequently gone viral on the Internet. The Wall Street Journal‘s Bret Stephens had the apropos observation, when he quoted an underlying article about the snub and added this brief commentary:
The utter failure of the Arab world in one picture. https://t.co/9NpEuByvlA
— Bret Stephens (@BretStephensNYT) August 13, 2016
Stephens’ column in today’s Journal is also a reflection on the incident, and is well worth a read.
As I have previously noted, the Arab-Israeli conflict is really not as complicated as some folks make it out to be. One sides wants peace, and has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to make great sacrifices for peace; the other, by and large, does not want peace. Here is Dennis Prager’s helpful, straightforward explanation:
El Shehaby’s handshake snub is emblematic of the Arab world’s infamous “Three No’s” promulgated in the 1967 Khartoum Resolution, regarding Arab League relations with Israel: (1) no peace with Israel, (2) no recognition of Israel, and (3) no negotiations with Israel. The handshake snub can only be properly understood in this post-Khartoum context. To bow before and shake the hand of the victorious Israeli judoka would not only be to implicitly recognize the legitimacy of an athlete competing for the Olympic delegation of the sovereign Jewish state, but would also be to implicitly recognize the sheer humanity of a Jew himself. For large swaths of the Arab world—including a Saudi judoka, who herself outright withdrew from her competition rather than merely face an Israeli competitor—both propositions are simply anathema.
It is to the Rio crowd’s credit that El Shehaby’s handshake snub was vociferously booed. And the Egyptian Olympic Committee ought to be similarly applauded for its formally reprimanding him.
One silver lining of the otherwise-catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal has been to improve largely below-the-radar military/intelligence relations between Israel and the region’s Sunni nations that are similarly threatened by the West’s abetted Iranian hegemony and its ascendant Shi’ite crescent of influence from the Tehran mullahs through Hezbollah in the Levant. Indeed, the metastasis of sharia supremacist Islamism in the region has reshuffled the region’s shifting alliances and geopolitics in such a way as to make Israel a more viable military ally for anti-Islamist, anti-jihadi reformers, such as Egypt’s own Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.
But the handshake snub, along with the Lebanese delegation’s open anti-Semitism and the Saudi judoka’s withdrawal, continue to highlight the fact that deep-rooted anti-Semitism and accompanying cultural destitution still reverberate throughout the Arab world. As a firm believer in the power of public shaming, I believe it is incumbent upon us all to stridently condemn such antics as El Shehaby’s. It is the only natural response for opponents of the age-old disease of anti-Semitism, and for those who long for a lasting peace in the Middle East between Israel and her Arab neighbors.
As The Israel Project‘s photo caption notes, it is not the act of losing that makes one a loser; it is the act of irrational prejudice and bigotry that makes one a loser. Shame on Islam El Shehaby.